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Putiputi o Te Aopouri – Flower of the Underworld discovered and kept alive by a man and his dog

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Some call this taonga Putiputi o Te Aopouri, others call it Pua o Te Reinga, both translate to Flowers of The Underworld.


Image: Doc


Our dedicated kaimahi Graeme Atkins has worked for 11 years trying to work out ways to keep this taonga around for future generations to enjoy. After much trial and experimentation, he developed a new technique with his beloved kuri to locate undiscovered populations.



Graeme and his kuri, Mohiti


Dactylanthus is a parasitic plant that gets all its nutrients from its host tree or shrub.

It is the only plant in the world that flowers at ground level and is pollinated by bats, which have evolved a mutually beneficial relationship with dactylanthus. Sadly, both the bat and the plant have declined in numbers, and there are very few places left where they still co-exist.

Pekapeka-short-tailed bat feeding on Pua o te Reinga-Dactylanthus. Photo: David Mudge/Nga Manu ©


To help save this special species of the underworld, Graeme developed a new survey technique to search for new populations of Dactylanthus taylorii. The method uses possums, which are the principal agent in the decline of the species, through stomach content analysis to locate undiscovered or remnant populations.


“By analysing the stomach content of dead possums, it was possible to find out when and where they had been having a feed of Putiputi o Te Aopouri,” says Graeme.
“From there I eventually got a dog going who could sniff out plants especially during the autumn flowering season. Much the same as pekapeka, short tailed bats do”.

Graeme says he will forever have a soft spot for this beauty and thanks to his tenacity in keeping this taonga species alive and on our radar, we will too.


Ngā mihi nui Graeme


We are really grateful to Graeme for sharing his knowledge and mātauranga with us, and we look forward to helping keep this beautiful putiputi alive, as together we restore the biodiversity of te Raukūmara.




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